Lonely Planet Traveller Magazine, Issue 113, May 2018, Greece, Greek Islands, Aegean Sea, Lesvos
The petrified remains of ancient trees at the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest.

©Philip Lee Harvey/Lonely Planet

Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest

Top choice in Lesvos

This fascinating state-of-the-art museum chronicles what a volcano can do at a moment's notice – in this case 20 million years ago. Don't miss the interesting film and short verbal presentation. Well-signed exhibits and – crucially – the museum's own patch of the petrified forest transport visitors to when violent volcanic explosions discharged rapid flows of extremely hot ash and rock, covering the dense forest of western Lesvos, including trees, branches, root systems, leaves and fruits.

What followed – hot fluids rich in pyrite, rising from molten magma – perfectly fossilised plant fibres. This process involved the molecule-by-molecule replacement of organic plant matter with inorganic matter. Today’s petrified forest reveals structural characteristics of plants, root systems and tree trunks exactly as they existed 20 million years ago. Among the star attractions are the giant trunks of petrified sequoia trees and tiny fossils of pistachio nuts and olive leaves.

There's also a gift shop. Check website for opening hours.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Lesvos attractions

1. Moni Ypsilou

4.57 MILES

About 9km west of Andissa, the Byzantine Moni Ypsilou stands atop a solitary peak surrounded by volcanic plains. Founded in the 8th century, this storied…

2. Eresos Archaeological Museum

6.74 MILES

This is a modest museum, but the outside (and fenced) mosaics are of great interest. It is located on a quiet street in the southeastern part of the…

3. Byzantine-Genoese Castle

20.38 MILES

This handsome 14th-century castle stands guard above Molyvos. A steep climb is repaid by sweeping views over the town and sea – even across to Turkey,…

4. Vrisa Natural History Museum

22.04 MILES

Associated with the Museum of Palaeontology and Geology at the University of Athens, the museum displays impressive and well-signed prehistoric fossil…

6. Eftalou Beach

22.58 MILES

Eftalou Beach (also called Agii Anargyri Beach), 2km northeast of Petra, is the place for solitude seekers. Backed by a cliff, the serene, narrow pebbled…

7. Apollon Smintheion

26.47 MILES

This impressive site in the village of Gülpınar includes a partially reconstructed 2nd-century-BC Temple to Apollo, two Roman baths complexes that were…

8. Moni Taxiarhon

26.88 MILES

Around 36km north of Mytilini Town, near Mantamados village, stands one of Lesvos’ most important pilgrimage sites. An axis of Orthodoxy, myth and…